One would have thought he was in the legislative halls of Annapolis, but the setting was Pikesville Armory, where the annual Maryland Sportfishing and Hunting Show played over the weekend. Sure, there was talk of shooting and angling, but proposed legislation and regulations dominated.
Petitions were signed right and left, and there was more special interest lobbying than sales pitches by outfitters for hunting and fishing safaris. What's the World of Outdoors coming to?
Meanwhile at Timonium, the annual Maryland RV Show held its first of two consecutive weekend runs with large crowds, and even a few sales -- especially of smaller, fuel-saving units -- as everyone appeared to be wondering when Operation Desert Storm will end. That milestone should start putting signatures on sales contracts for more luxurious models.
One of the big questions at Pikesville was how many fishermen are willing to give up an evening to march on the statehouse to support House Bill 575 to give striped bass gamefish status? The Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association, sponsor of both the bill and the march, is asking all 200,000 who participated in the nine-day recreational season to join the parade from the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium parking area to the statehouse.
Realistically, several thousand demonstrators would be a more realistic showing -- and certainly enough to convince legislators there is a groundswell of support for a better bill than the one whipped last year. Just about everyone who stopped at the MSSA booth to sign gamefish petitions promised to show up at the 6 p.m. check-in on March 11, and start the hike an hour later, but, alas, fishermen have short memories for things other than what they caught.
The new bill would prohibit the commercial fishing and sale of wild rock -- a move just approved in New Jersey. Legislation includes provisions for a $15 rockfish stamp, $30 boat stamp and $125 charterboat stamp to create a Watermen's Economic Revitalization Fund to buy out watermen over five years.
Also appearing at the show was Ken Penrod, conservation director of the Maryland BASS Federation, which for the first time stepped beyond bass'n boundaries to endorse the gamefish bill. Petition signatures are now approaching an impressive 30,000, according to Rich Novotny, MSSA executive director. For further information on the march or the legislation, call MSSA at 768-8666.
It was also evident at the show that not everyone favors the Department of Natural Resources' proposed two spring seasons for large rockfish in the Chesapeake, with angling effort restricted to waters below the Bay Bridge. Nothing definite yet, but one season would be for trophy rock -- one fish a day -- from May 1 to 13, with a minimum size of 45 inches. The other would run the remainder of the month, with a minimum size of 28 inches and a maximum of 32, 34 or 36 inches - a limit yet to be designated.
Sentiment appeared to favor some fishing, but many expressed reservations about an overkill of brood stock. Perhaps there is merit to the overall plan, but cautious conservatism is essential.
Among bass fishermen, DNR's reorganization that puts freshwater fisheries alongside hunting under assistant secretary Don MacLauchlan met with general approval, though there were many who feared tidewater bass fishing would remain under tidewater fisheries, and thus split management. However, a check with popular freshwater fisheries chief Bob Bachman yesterday brought assurances that he will continue to manage both.
The Maryland Bowhunter Society intensified its campaign against proposed legislation to repeal the Maryland hunter harassment law, and its president George Malone urged all hunters to voice their objections to Senate Bill 51 at the March 13 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at 1 p.m.
MBS also urged opposition to a proposed local Montgomery County ordinance that would change the boundaries for shooting -- but in the new plan lumps bows and arrows with firearms. A fellow wouldn't be able to shoot a bow in his back yard, griped Malone. That proposal will be aired Feb. 26 at 1:30 in the county offices at Rockville.